Unilever's Pier Luigi Sigismondi: What Paris means to me...

Jessica Shankleman

Chief supply chain officer at consumer products giant calls for countries to agree a strong deal that will ratchet up their ambition on cutting greenhouse gases

BusinessGreen is asking key green business leaders about their personal views on the importance of the climate change talks due to take place in the French capital at the end of this year.

This week we spoke to Pier Luigi Sigismondi, chief supply chain officer for Unilever.

What do you hope to see achieved in Paris?

We need a high level of ambition in the agreement from governments, which will act as a strong signal to investors, but we also need a step change in companies committing to tackling climate change. We know that the relationship between steadily increasing government and private sector ambitions is constantly evolving. We want the agreement to be just the start, with a regular mechanism to review and raise the ambition as confidence increases.

Ultimately we believe that it's impossible to have a healthy business in an unhealthy world. As chief supply chain officer I am closely involved in driving Unilever's climate agenda - for example, taking action to tackle deforestation, from the way we buy commodities such as palm and soy, renewable energy purchasing and eco efficiency in factories.

I am particularly passionate about ending deforestation - we can't keep global warming to less than 2C unless forests are protected. Through industry groups such as the Consumer Goods Forum we are taking action to end deforestation in supply chains by 2020 - but we could do much more if developed countries, forest countries, local communities and companies all work together.

In Paris, I would like to see developed countries adopting concrete emissions reductions and financing targets for tropical forests. A few billion dollars a year for results-based partnerships with developing countries would help end deforestation, protect vulnerable communities and move the world closer to the 2C climate goal.

Overall we hope to see governments get behind the transitions that are needed, in a meaningful way.

What do you think will be agreed?

We hope that, more than ever, many of the most influential stakeholders agree what's at stake and are prepared to commit to action. This year can be a momentous one, with the prospect of reaching an ambitious and equitable international agreement in Paris.

How would a Paris deal impact your business?

This is bigger than our business. It's about the direction for the global economy and society as a whole. However, a good deal for us would provide greater certainty when making decisions about low carbon investments around the world.

We recently committed to moving to 100 per cent renewable electricity and the level of ambition set by governments will be influential in determining how fast we can get there. A strong signal from government to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy would help drive the energy transition at scale.

It could also mean positive results for our drive to halt deforestation, if we see a strong signal of support that governments will step up efforts on forest protection.

Do you think green businesses are making themselves heard?

There is no shortage of forums and platforms for people to make themselves heard but I think the message could be clearer. Initiatives such as the 'We Mean Business' coalition are doing a good job of getting the message across from businesses that we want to see action on climate change and that many are already taking action within their own operations and supply chains.

In 240 characters what would your message be to the lead negotiators?

Agree an ambitious deal in Paris and count on our support to help implement it - we're all in this together.

Are you going to the Paris summit and how are you getting there?

The start of this journey is crucial, so Unilever will be well represented at the summit this year and we're lucky to have the Eurostar train linking London and Paris. However, we need to remember that solving climate change is bigger than one meeting - the work is ongoing.

This article is part of BusinessGreen's Road to Paris hub, hosted in association with PwC.

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